Chapter 24: That’s Gonna Leave A Scar
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Previously: Cheshire finished telling the old legend of the nymphs, and what it could mean for Madnes. Is there a way to length his life?
Was the Madness Solver fairy a last survivor of the race of nymphs, who had been made extinct long ago? It was an intriguing mystery, and one he had to solve if he wanted a lifespan longer than a chipmunk’s. He somehow doubted the fairy would respond if he asked, though; she seemed quite content to keep things to herself and be of no help. She probably wouldn’t even tell him if the dark syn was a real thing, and if it still lurked Wonderland, as the legend told.
Madnes stood up from the chair to stretch his legs. “I’m going out for some fresh air.”
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” came Cheshire’s voice, as paws padded to the kitchen sink and began washing empty, used cups. Madnes paused, hand out for the doorknob, almost heaving a groan and tempted to open the door without listening for his reason.
“Do I dare ask, why not?” he grumbled, “What’s out there in Wonderland at night?”
“Many things,” Cheshire looked up to the ceiling, as if there were too many to name. “But around this time of year there will be vampire frogs about.”
Madnes face-palmed. “Vampire frogs? Why am I not surprised… Heh, I’ll swat them away then, if that’s the case.”
“I wouldn’t go outside and tempt them, if I were you, Madnes.” The cat warned, though he made no move to stop him.
With a huff, he chose to ignore caution and open the door, stepping outside into the night. Cool, fresh air blew a greeting, and a dull porch light from a pear-shaped bulb cast a halo around him. It was nice out here. “Vampire frogs,” he rubbed at aching arms—body still soar, even if healed from his ordeal with Oz. “What’s so scary about a frog with fangs? Heh, it’s humans with fangs that I’d be more afraid of.”
Something plopped from beyond the shadows. His head swiveled toward it instinctively. “It’s nothing, it’s nothing.” He slapped his cheeks to slap away hints of rising fear. The creepy moon grinning down from a night inked sky wasn’t helping matters. “I’m just jumpy. No silly frog can hurt me.”
Something landed just beyond the porch light’s reach. The sound grabbed at his gaze. Twin large, round eyes glowed from the deep shadows, reflecting faint light like glass. The eyeballs stared up at him, unblinking and red, and a brown frog slowly crawled into view.
He swallowed, shook his head, then stared threateningly back at the small thing.
Unwillingly his arms shook, lips twitched, though he strained to not be unnerved by a mere frog.
Hop. The frog’s mouth opened, dark and wide, twin fangs sliding out. A series of hops and more frogs joined from the darkness. He went wide-eyed, and as one they leaped—high up, toward his face.
“EEYK!” His fists shot out, punching the things away, and he bolted back inside the cottage.
“Back already?” Cheshire asked with the hint of a smug smirk. Madnes turned his nose up and away, refusing to further that smirk.
“I’m off to sleep,” he stalked over to a sofa. Vampire frogs would scar his dreams tonight. ‘No, they’ve scarred my brain. I’ll never look at a frog the same way again!’
Glimmers of light tickled at his eyelids until he opened them, sitting up from a makeshift sofa-bed and greeting the early dawn. Harrey was sound asleep and drooling over a sofa chair—Ugly having made a nest in his hair. Cheshire must be snug in his own kitty room, and Alice…where was Alice?
He eased the door open quietly, peeking first—not because he was afraid of what might be outside, vampire amphibians or anything—but just to be on the safe side. A loud munch startled him out of his shoes, and he had to clamp his mouth shut against a yelp.
Pelur was eating a massive flower of lettuce, munching loudly on it in human form by the doorstep. He lazily looked sideways at him, “Want one?”
“Ah, no. None whatsoever,” Madnes kindly dodged the offer. “Have you seen Alice?”
Pelur paused mid munch to tilt his head sideways, looking up at the clouds and thinking back. “Hm. Yes. Yes, I did.” Madnes waited for more. None came, and he realized with a groan that if he didn’t ask specifics, Pelur was too slow in the head to give details.
“And? Where is she?”
A gauntleted hand pointed to the back of the house, beyond a patch of woods there. “Thanks,” Madnes trotted off, and reaching the woods wove his way through trunks and hanging moss. “What does she think she’s doing, going way out here on her own?” he mumbled, a touch disgruntled.
The trees parted up ahead, and dawn reflected off a small pool—perfectly round and clean, trails of steam rising from its waters. He was about to venture near it, when swishing footsteps made him duck behind the nearest wide tree. It was Alice, and she was wearing something like a towel around her. Perplexed, he watched with suspicion from around the bark, careful not to let her see him. There had been something odd about her, lately—he’d noticed on several occasions—a wild look in her light green eyes, an unnatural glow in her hair. Maybe, if he waited and watched…
Her back turned to him as she faced the steaming hot spring pool, and the towel around her slowly lowered. With a sudden, fierce blush he realized what she was there for, and quick looked away—or would have, if not for a strange, unearthly glow that suddenly enveloped her.
‘I’m not going to peek, I just want to confirm. Something is different about her…and my senses tell me I must know what it is.’
As she stepped into the pool, light illuminated her. No—it was coming from her; she was the light. Alice’s skin glowed like liquid sunlight, blinding, blending into the dawn’s gold rays about the clearing.
Peeking one eye around the tree, he half-watched, dumbstruck at this transformation. Leaving the towel, her glowing form dived into the water and was gone. Minutes passed…she wasn’t resurfacing.
“Alice?!” Fearing the worst, he raced to the pool’s edge. His eyes scanned but couldn’t find her—light played in the pool, but she was nowhere to be found. Heart thumping wildly, he bent down to the water and prepared to dive in, when a fist suddenly shot out from the surface: grazing his right cheek and ear.
Alice resurfaced—face red with fury and bursting up with a loud splash, sending his lungs flying into his throat and his body toppling back onto his behind. “Alice!! Wait! I wasn’t—didn’t mean to—!” He realized how the situation must appear; and her skin was no longer glowing, nothing different about her than the Alice he knew. “Oh crud!”
WHAM! Krack! SMACK! She had a fierce kick for a petite person. Her blonde hair and towel wrapped around her as she punched and kicked and slapped the stars out of his head. He fell like a log to the ground, nose bleeding and bruised eyelids twitching.
“You’re here to peek?” A bird voice squawked shrilly. He glimpsed the feathery goose, and Knight Pelur, appearing on the scene. “Shame on you, Madness Solver! How indecent!!” Feathers slapped at him, “How can my feathers take their turn at the bath with you peeping around?”
“Peeping? EEP!” Pelur gave a terrified squeal, hands struggling to shield his body from view as if Madnes could see through the layers of armor the guy wore.
“I-I…w-w-wsn’t…gwurggg…” Madnes’ bruised lips gurgled, unable to lift his face and body up off the ground. They continued to squeal and slap, and he struggled to crawl away. Forget the vampire frogs—this was going to leave a bigger scar!
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© copyright 2015 E. Rawls and Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful author Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “Scar.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your 3 favorite to win!
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